Sunday, March 25, 2007

Solemnity of the Annunciation - Anniversary of Solemn Profession

The Annunciation - Waterhouse

Today is the first anniversary of my solemn profession in the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer. In this painting Mary is so poignantly depicted as totally awestruck, amazed and anxious at the appearance of the angel and the message delivered. On the occasion of my profession I was awed by the beauty of the rite and overwhelmed with profound sense of having been extraordinarily graced throughout my life and now in the gift of this vocation. Contemplative nuns rarely have such 'checkered' past lives; wife and mother, teacher, lay minister, community activist, librarian, needlewoman and life-long student. What could God possibly have had in mind when guiding this meandering path to deeper relationship with the Divine? And the rest of the story is yet to be revealed.

I am profoundly grateful to our lover-God who came to live in our flesh, who called me "to be in the Church and in the world a living memory of Christ the Redeemer." I am also grateful to all those who have marked my path with their presence and love and with whom I share the commitment to remain faithful to all sorts of promises. At the end of the Mass for the Solemn Profession I spoke the following heartfelt words to all assembled there. I share them with you.

Mass of Solemn Profession in the
Order of the Most Holy Redeemer
March 25, 2006

Loved ones, dear sisters, Redemptorist brothers, faithful friends; let us rejoice. The age of miracles has not passed!

What a story! In Sicilian we would say, “che romanzu” – what a soap opera – seems I’ve had almost as many lives as Erica on "All My Children!" Some might use the Yiddish word “mishigas”, a craziness of the improbable proving that “truth is indeed stranger than fiction.” What else can it be other than pure miracle? And each of you, in one way or another, in large part or small, has been an instrument of God’s beneficent grace, a sustaining gift; a sign of love in some part of the story.

The ritual you witnessed today was suffused with spousal imagery. It is a ritual concerning a promise rooted in the baptismal promise shared by all Christians. In the limited vocabulary of human experience there is no better metaphor for the quality of these promises than that of a long, loving, joyful, mutually generous, faithful, and sometimes painful marriage. Perhaps no one here can better attest to the requirements of life-long promises of commitment than my own mother and father poised as they are to celebrate the 63rd anniversary of their spousal love.

The faithfulness and devotion to commitment that we prayed for today are meant for each and everyone here. It has been my hope that this celebration would be inspiration and encouragement for your own myriad promises and commitments; whether it is fidelity in marriage, dedication to nurturing children, perseverance in religious vows, faithfulness to honoring your true self, obligations in earning a living or the duties of citizenship and service. We need all the help we can get because as we know from first hand experience that none of it is easy. But remember, the age of miracles has not yet passed. So be stout-hearted in sure knowledge of God’s covenantal promise, “I am with you always.”

Gratitude can never be adequately expressed but one must try. First of all, to my sons, Jonathan, Matthew and Andrew; thank you for being who you are, for forgiving me and loving me, and for allowing me to be who I am.

To the elders of our community of women – those already in God’s embrace and those with whom I live who continue to be wise mentors, models of perseverance, wisdom, and charity; your lived promises have made this life available to me.

I look out now not on a sea of faces but at a panorama – the panorama of a lifetime of relationships. Beginning with my parents who gave me everything, each of you knows the part you played, the gifts you gave to me and those you continue to give.

Many are united with us in spirit whether by virtue of friendship, family ties or sisterhood in the Order; from British Columbia to Chulucanas, Peru; from Liguori, Missouri to Fort Erie, Canada, to Mason, New Hampshire; from Dublin, Ireland to Modena, Italy; from Merrivale, South Africa to Bielsko-Biala, Poland; from Kezmarok, Slovakia to Legazpi, in the Philippines. Isn’t that a wonder!

I feel very much also the presence of many who are now enjoying the embrace of God: the grandmothers I never knew, my grandfather and aunt who influenced my childhood, sisters from the community and friends, some of whom have only recently left us. They are together with us in the Communion of Saints.

I am, at least in part, the sum total of what they and you have been to me.

In a life centered on contemplative prayer one is joined to all people and to the world in ways that surpass the boundaries of time and space. Our foundress, Maria Celeste, heard Jesus say,

“I want you to be espoused to all souls and to experience
the same delight which I experience in them.”

Be assured of the faithfulness of my prayers for you and know that our loving creator God has truly delighted in you and in all the promises you’ve kept. May we continue on our way in covenant with God, as gift to each other, as witnesses to love, hope, fidelity and peace, in a challenging world.

Just as Robert Frost’s traveler in darkness stopped in the snowy wood to revel in beauty and be renewed by awe, we have stopped to connect with the wonder of God. Now we too have “promises to keep and miles to go before we sleep.”

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